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February 6, 2014

Your keyboard is dirtier than you think, here’s how to keep it clean

By shutterstock_128623754

We’ve had it all but beaten into us that washing our hands after every minor event can work wonders to keep us healthy. But what good is all of that glorious hygiene when you plop back down at your desk only to rest your Dial-fresh digits on a dirty keyboard? Pretty useless, it turns out. The BBC News reported on a U.K. study in 2008 which showed that keyboards can carry up to five times more bacteria than a toilet seat (go ahead and just take a minute to let that one sink in). But before you freak out, rest assured that you can quickly and easily murder the potentially harmful bacteria swarming beneath your fingertips.

Here are more reasons, and a few simple tips, to keep your keys crud-free.

A dirty keyboard can make you sick – Take a good long look at your keyboard (go ahead, I’ll wait). Does it look spotless? If so, nice work – that’s a great start and it means you’re probably not a complete slob. But just because it looks clean doesn’t mean it’s not about to give you food poisoning (yes, this is actually possible). If you’re not wiping that thing down regularly with disinfectant, you may be caressing the keys of future sick days. So go ahead and keep a pack of disinfectant wipes nearby. This will not only help you remember to clean your keys like it’s part of your job, but it could also save you a trip to the doctor’s office.

For a more thorough cleaning, you can pick up a kit or create your own with a few cheap supplies. Cleaning kits like iKlear are inexpensive, wildly popular (Apple geeks swear by it) and extremely versatile. You can also use this product to clean your mouse, smartphone, tablet, and most other gadgets, by the way.

Hand washing is still key – At the risk of sounding like everyone’s mother, you really do need to wash the heck out of your hands after any dirty deeds, and for at least 20 seconds. If you’re already scrubbing like a fanatic, your keyboard is probably one of the lesser offenders. Typically, the truly nasty stuff starts collecting where there’s a lack of hand hygiene. But keyboards also harbor a good deal of junk in other situations too, like eating while you’re busy tapping away (take a break, your brain will thank you!). Anything sticky and saucy will inevitably end up between your keys. But even if you don’t do either of these bacteria-loving things, you’re still not completely in the clear because your fingers contain oils which end up all over the keys no matter how darn OCD you may be.

Pro tip: If you’re washing with foam soaps or using hand sanitizer religiously, keep a bottle of moisturizing lotion nearby, as the alcohols in these products can be extremely drying, especially during the colder months.

Use a Post-It in a pinch – So your keyboard is mostly clean but little bits of your lunch are getting jammed up in the cracks. While I still strongly suggest that you start taking your lunch somewhere that isn’t your office, you can easily alleviate this crunchy conundrum with a good old fashioned Post-It note. Real Simple suggests folding it up and running the sticky side between the keys to collect those crumbs and other bits of lingering lint.

Consider an air purifier – Air purifiers can also help keep the nasty stuff at bay by trapping dust, dander (which can be brought in by shoes, clothing and hair) and other irritating particles. You can find affordable, compact styles designed specifically for small rooms and desktops. But don’t forget that these handy little machines require regular maintenance of their own. Depending on the type of air purifier, you’ll either have to clean the filter or swap it out for another when the time comes. When you do finally clean it, you’ll be simultaneously impressed and grossed out by just how much dirt it spared your senses.

Don’t forget the other stuff – While keyboards may attract more grime than most other objects in your cubicle, it’s important to keep the entire space as clean as you can for the sake of your health. Even if you can’t be bothered with the bigger picture, be extra mindful of any items that you touch frequently including your mouse and your smartphone, which are likely just as (if not more) downright dirty as your keyboard.

About the Author

is a contributing editor of the Pluralsight blog. She has been a freelance writer since 2006. She deals in tech and food -- an odd combination, but it keeps her sated. You can find her on Twitter @sterrsi.